It’s not official but it’s pretty darn close to a final tabulation for the mountain lodging properties for this season although skier / snowboarder visits will carry on for awhile in some areas. All in all, a pretty solid season for the mountain destinations around the western U.S. although not the kind of results of several years ago. Plentiful snow, skier / snowboarder passion for their sport(s), special incentives, compelling lodging deals, and a recovering economy also seemed to play a role.
Although several weeks still remain in the 2010-11 ski season before the final lodging figures can be tallied, the most recent results released by the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP)* indicate that collectively, destination mountain resorts in the western U.S. will be up six percent in lodging occupancy for the winter season (November through April, as of March 31) with the average daily rate projected to be up one percent. For the month of March, actual occupancy was up 7.9 percent in 2011 compared to March 2010.
“As we close the third season of tough economic times, we are pleased to report continued resiliency among destination mountain travelers. A slowly improving economy and excellent snow conditions across much of the country made a significant contribution to the uptick in business for mountain lodging properties,” said Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP. “However, there were significant variances between participating MTRiP properties and destinations; the eastern, central and Rocky Mountain destinations were generally up, while results from the far west and Canada were generally softer,” he clarified.
“While we are not back to ‘the good old days’ of pre-recession bookings and pricing, there has certainly been an uptick in sophistication and reaction among both consumers and resort operators and that bodes well for the future,” observed Garrison. “Like the old adage, we saw quite a bit of ‘when there’s a will, there’s a way’ this season. Now as we start looking towards summer, we anticipate that mountain resorts will target their marketing efforts toward regional drive markets since current economic and travel related fuel costs will have less impact on local visitors than long distance travelers,” he concluded.
Once again, broad economic indicators were mixed for the month of March. The Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) decreased 11.9 percent after four months of gains due to increases in food, transportation and oil. There was also a considerable increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). And even though the Unemployment Rate declined for the fourth consecutive month and 216,000 new jobs were added during March, an estimated 2.4 million individuals are expected to re-enter the job-search market in the coming months and add pressure to unemployment figures.
Tom Foley, MTRiP analyst, also found positive news in the economic snapshot for the month. “The Dow Jones was up nearly one percent from the end of February and has increased 17.7 percent from March 2010,” he pointed out. The Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) also edged up 0.8 percent and is currently nearly six percent higher than a year ago, indicating a fundamental stability at the core of the U.S. economy,” he explained.
With only a handful of destination resorts still open, mountain properties turn their focus to summer business. As of March 31, bookings for April 2011 were down 4.2 percent compared to April 2010 while bookings for the next six months (April-September) are slightly better-currently up 3.1 percent. The report also noted that the average daily rate for the next six months is currently down 3.5 percent.